SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah and ARUP Laboratories have announced they are now able to test 1,500 patients per day for COVID-19 and loosen the restrictions on who can be tested.
Until now, patients needed to have symptoms and prove they were exposed to the novel coronavirus before they could be tested.
Patients can now be tested regardless of their travel or contact history.
Testing is still not allowed for anyone who is asymptomatic.
"Our goal is, over the next couple of weeks, to scale up to 3,000 tests a day," said Dr. Kim Hanson of ARUP Laboratories. "Patients do not need to have all symptoms at the moment they're evaluated."
For weeks the Utah Department of Health has warned the number of documented COVID-19 cases could be misleading due to the lack of testing. Increased testing means the state now has a better shot of knowing exactly how much the virus has spread.
"This doubles our capacity to test daily," said Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health. "We’re pushing our limits every day in terms of the number of people we can test to ensure that those who need the test can get it quickly."
"The whole process is done while the patient is in the car," said Dr. Richard Orlandi, a chief medical officer with University of Utah Health. "It preserves our ability to use a smaller amount of personal protective equipment."
In order for ARUP Laboratories to meet its goal of expanding tests to 3,000 per day, they will need to rely on having enough tests, reagent, and personal protective equipment to last.
"As of today, we have no backlog of COVID-19 testing at ARUP," said Dr. Sherrie Perkins, CEO of ARUP Laboratories. "Supplies are not currently a limiting factor... we are bringing on additional instruments to double that in the near future."
Although the Utah Department of Health expects there will be a shortage of personal protective equipment in the future, officials said PPE is currently in good supply.
"At this point we’re not recommending anyone go out and make their own PPE," Dunn said. "We’re trying to get what’s already out there in the hands of our healthcare providers...
(Drive-through testing) allows a provider to stay in one specific personal protective equipment so that they’re not changing between every single patient, and that will protect some of our supply."
University of Utah drive-through testing clinics are currently open at the following locations:
- Redwood Health Center
- Sugar House Health Center
- Farmington Health Center
- South Jordan Health Center
A fifth drive-through testing location is expected to open later this week in Park City.
"If patients choose to, they can come to the facility without calling, but we encourage them to call," Orlandi said.
Utah COVID-19 Hotline: (801) 587 0712
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.